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Wear the boss’ shoes

Let empathy guide your ascent

by on
in Career Management,Workplace Communication

You assume you know what it takes to get ahead at your organization. So you dress for success, document all your decisions in detail and attend all company functions religiously.

Problem is, your boss doesn’t care about fancy suits, prefers short memos and likes employees who don’t feel obliged to remain at every company event from start to finish.

You’re thus confusing what you think you need to do with what your boss thinks you must do to advance. And it’s the boss’s view that counts.

Here’s how to guard against clinging to mistaken notions of career advancement:

Isolate your boss’s “big three” needs. Ask, “If you were to identify the three most important things you need from me for both of us to succeed, what would they be?”

Explain that you want to manage your time more wisely and upgrade your contribution. By knowing what matters most to higher-ups, you can produce the kind of work that will get recognized in a style they approve of.

Empathize with your boss. Ask yourself, “If I were my boss, what would I ideally like from me as an employee? How could I make her job easier?”

Listen to what the boss complains about and what pressures she faces from her managers. When she expresses anxiety or uncertainty, that’s another clue to a thorny issue that you should help resolve.

Root out your assumptions. List what you think you must do to nab that next promotion, in the order of what you deem most critical. Examples may include meeting deadlines, pleasing customers and lowering staff turnover. Then show the list to your boss and confirm that you’re on the right track. And provide a pen. Say, “Feel free to make corrections.”

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